Peter pulls me by the hand and says, “Come on, Covey. We make our own luck. Besides, we were here two months ago for that thing at the Miller Center.”
I relax. “Oh, yeah.”
We continue our walk across the lawn. I know where we’re going now. To the Rotunda, to sit on the steps. The Rotunda was designed by Thomas Jefferson, who founded the school, and he modeled it after the Pantheon, with its white columns and big domed top. Peter runs up the brick steps Rocky-style and plops down. I sit down in front of him, leaning back and resting my arms on the tops of his knees. “Did you know,” I begin, “that one of the things that makes UVA unique is that the center of the school, right there inside the Rotunda, is a library and not a church? It’s because Jefferson believed in the separation between school and church.”
“Did you read that in the brochure?” Peter teases, planting a kiss on my neck.
Dreamily, I say, “I learned it when I went on the tour last year.”
“You didn’t tell me you went on a tour. Why would you go on a tour when you’re from here? You’ve been here a million times!”
He’s right that I’ve been here a million times—I grew up going here with my family. When my mom was still alive, we’d go see the Hullabahoos perform because my mom loved a cappella. We had our family portrait taken on the lawn. On sunny days after church, we’d come picnic out here.
I twist around to look at Peter. “I went on the tour because I wanted to know everything about UVA! Stuff I wouldn’t know just by living around here. Like, do you know what year they let women in?”
He scratches the back of his neck. “Uh . . . I don’t know. When was the school founded? The early 1800s? So, 1920?”
“Nope. 1970.” I turn back around and face forward, looking out onto the grounds. “After a hundred and fifty years.”
Intrigued, Peter says, “Whoa. That’s crazy. Okay, tell me more facts about UVA.”
“UVA is America’s only collegiate World Heritage UNESCO site in all of the United States,” I begin.
“Never mind, don’t tell me more facts about UVA,” Peter says, and I slap him on the knee. “Tell me something else instead. Tell me what you’re looking forward to most about going to school here.”
“You go first. What are you most excited about?”
Right away, Peter says, “That’s easy. Streaking the lawn with you.”
“That’s what you’re looking forward to more than anything? Running around naked?” Hastily I add, “I’m never doing that, by the way.”
He laughs. “It’s a UVA tradition. I thought you were all about UVA traditions.”
“I’m just kidding.” He leans forward and puts his arms around my shoulders, rubbing his nose in my neck the way he likes to do. “Your turn.”
I let myself dream about it for a minute. If I get in, what am I most looking forward to? There are so many things, I can hardly name them all. I’m looking forward to eating waffles every day with Peter in the dining hall. To us sledding down O-Hill when it snows. To picnics when it’s warm. To staying up all night talking and then waking up and talking some more. To late-night laundry and last-minute road trips. To . . . everything. Finally I say, “I don’t want to jinx it.”
“Okay, okay . . . I guess I’m most looking forward to . . . to going to the McGregor Room whenever I want.” People call it the Harry Potter room, because of the rugs and chandeliers and leather chairs and the portraits on the wall. The bookshelves go from the floor to the ceiling, and all of the books are behind metal grates, protected like the precious objects they are. It’s a room from a different time. It’s very hushed—reverential, even. There was this one summer—I must have been five or six, because it was before Kitty was born—my mom took a class at UVA, and she used to study in the McGregor Room. Margot and I would color, or read. My mom called it the magic library, because Margot and I never fought inside of it. We were both quiet as church mice; we were so in awe of all the books, and of the older kids studying.
Peter looks disappointed. I’m sure it’s because he thought I would name something having to do with him. With us. But for some reason, I want to keep those hopes just for me for now.
“You can come with me to the McGregor Room,” I say. “But you have to promise to be quiet.”
Affectionately Peter says, “Lara Jean, only you would look forward to hanging out in a library.”
Actually, judging by Pinterest alone, I’m pretty sure a lot of people would look forward to hanging out in such a beautiful library. Just not people Peter knows. He thinks I’m so quirky. I’m not planning on being the one to break the news to him that I’m actually not that quirky, that in fact lots of people like to stay home and bake cookies and scrapbook and hang out in libraries. Most of them are probably in their fifties, but still. I like the way he looks at me, like I am a wood nymph that he happened upon one day and just had to take home to keep.
Peter pulls his phone out of his hoodie pocket. “It’s twelve thirty. We should go soon.”
“Already?” I sigh. I like being here late at night. It feels like the whole place is ours.
In my heart, it was always UVA. I’ve never really expected to go anywhere else, or even really thought about it. I was going to apply early when Peter did, but my guidance counselor, Mrs. Duvall, advised me against applying early action, because she said it would be better to wait so they could see my senior mid-year grades. According to Mrs. Duvall, it’s always best to apply at your peak moment.
And so I ended up applying to five schools. At first it was just going to be UVA, the hardest to get into and only fifteen minutes from home; William and Mary, the second hardest to get into and also my second choice (two hours away); and then University of Richmond and James Madison, both only an hour away, in a tie for third choice. All in state. But then Mrs. Duvall urged me to apply to just one out-of-state school, just in case, just to have the option—so I applied to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It’s really hard to get into out-of-states, but I picked it because it reminds me of UVA. It has a strong liberal arts program, and it’s not too far away, close enough to come home in a hurry if I needed to.